MOSCOW (AP) — Three astronauts on Thursday landed back on Earth after nearly six months aboard the International Space Station.
A Russian Soyuz capsule with NASA's Randy Bresnik, Russia's Sergey Ryazanskiy and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency descended under a red-and-white parachute and landed on schedule at 2:37 p.m. local time (0837 GMT; 3:37 a.m. EST) on the vast steppes outside of a remote town in Kazakhstan.
The three were extracted from the capsule within 20 minutes and appeared to be in good condition.
Bresnik, Ryazansky and Nespoli spent 139 days aboard the orbiting space laboratory. The trio who arrived at the station in July contributed to hundreds of scientific experiments aboard the ISS and performed several spacewalks.
They left Alexander Misurkin, commander of the crew, and two Americans, Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei, in charge.
During their stay at the station, the crew had a phone call with Pope Francis who talked with the cosmonauts about Dante's verses and St. Exupery's "The Little Prince."
Bresnik, a U.S. Marine who flew combat missions during the Iraq war, told the pope what strikes him is that in space there are "no borders, there is no conflict, it's just peaceful."
Kentucky-born Bresnik also celebrated Thanksgiving in space, feasting on pouches of turkey with his colleagues.
The orbiting lab's crew of three will go back to a six-member team when NASA's Scott Tingle, Russia's Anton Shkaplerov and Japan's Norishige Kanai take off from Kazakhstan on Sunday.